Saturday, November 6, 2010

Tin Can Cakes

I did a bad, bad thing. I waited so long to put this post together that I can barely remember what the process was for the two I made. I know the goal: it was to make cakes in non standard sizes like this for two birthdays. I know the outcome: I did end up with two cakes from two different cans. Luckily, I took lots of photos and I think I'll be able to re-tell the story fairly well. I hope. Lots of photos and fuzzy memories after the jump. That's tempting enough to prompt a click, right?


Starting with the second attempt, I used a large canned tomatoes can. I can't actually remember the ounces, but I think you'll be able to find it in the store, just get the size up from normal. Remove the lid with a can opener, careful to not leave any sharp places to hurt yourself later.

For my first attempt, I used one 32 ounce metal coffee tin (mental  note, take photo before you remove label so that you can recall the size). I bought the largest, cheapest coffee tin I could. And I'm still trying to finish the coffee - that is so much coffee! For this one I had to use a can opener to remove an inside lip.

Next, spray the inside of the tin with cooking oil spray and coat with cocoa powder.


I used this Martha Stewart Recipe for Chocolate Cake and Chocolate Frosting.

For large coffee tin: Use one whole batch (I thought, boy, this coffee tin is so huge, surely it will take two batches. So I filled it up with two batches, completely underestimating how much it would rise (can you tell that Elizabeth is the baker here?), and I got a whole batch overflow on the bottom of my oven).

For the tomato tin: Use half a batch. Here is the thing about half a batch: it takes exactly the same amount of time to prepare as a whole batch. So you spend the same prep time but end up with a much smaller cake, I'm not sure I love this scenario - you have to really ask yourself, does the small-cuteness compensate for the effort/smaller amount you can eat? Sometimes, it does. And, really, it's probably always better for me to be around a smaller cake. I have no will power.

In general, you want to fill the tin up about half way. 


For me, baking time was a crap shoot. Because for one cake I had way too much batter, and the other I had half a batch - I really had to just keep an eye on it and so that's all I can suggest to you, too. Per Elizabeth's advice, I inserted metal kebob rods and a cake decorating rose nail to help compensate for spreading heat around in a thin tin.

I looks like it came from outer-space, but I rarely ever question where chocolate cake comes from.

When it's done (stick in wooden skewers to check the middle), let it cool and remove it from the tin. What's nice is that the ridges in the tin give you a good guide for cutting the cake in half. That being said, I still did a poor job of it. Have I mentioned that Elizabeth is the baker?


I also recommend a full batch and half batch of icing for the big and small cakes, respectively.

After you cut the cake in two, put icing in the middle. I also chopped up some extra chocolate and added it to the icing I put in the middle, because, why not?

Next, make a crumb coat. Cover the cute little crooked cake in a thin layer of icing to catch all the loose crumbs. Put it in the fridge for 15 to 20 mins to set.

I put a little more decorating effort into the little cake, though I had intended to put more. I don't feel like I made the icing quite right and it turned out to be too hard for me to pipe, so only the top was piped and the sides were smoothed with a bent spatula.


I cut out fabric and paper in triangles, strung them on strings that I anchored to two wooden skewers.  For the tags, I printed out each letter with a box around it plus a spike of sorts on the bottom to poke it into the cake with. Then I used an exacto knife and cut them out. I like short names.


Here they are in all of their glory. I have to say, they were a pretty big hit, because at the end of the day ingesting a ton of chocolate makes you forget about all efforts, mistakes or levels of cuteness.

The first, big one, was for my own birthday. Some friends and I went up to a cabin in New Hampshire and this cake was a fixture throughout all of our table activities: cards, games, drinking and chatting, eating... And who doesn't wan't a fork and a chocolate cake at arm's reach at all times?

The second small one was for a work birthday. I put it in a box without flags and tags and carried it upright to work and it traveled perfectly.

Whew, so there it is! I hope this was somewhat helpful in some small, tiny way!


  1. Well, if that isn't the cutest chocolate cake I've ever seen... my goodness.


  2. I was trying very had to work out how to make small Christmas cakes, so now you have worked it out for me! The cakes are loooovely!